Shawn Mendes @ Bluesfest

Arts Coverage, Bluesfest 2018

Pop sensation Shawn Mendes drew the biggest crowd yet at Bluesfest Saturday night.

A collective teenage shriek rose from the crowd as the nineteen-year-old singer songwriter took the stage, opening with his catchy single “Nothing Holdin’ Me Back.”

Mendes delivered an unflashy set, accompanied by just a standard light show and solid backing band. Playing guitar or piano on each track, he didn’t need much more to hold the attention of the crowd, who came out in droves.

Mendes’s teenage love songs transferred well to a concert setting. His funkier tunes, like his most recent single “Nervous” (on which he utilized a decent falsetto), were considerably more danceable live than on record. Slightly more grandiose arrangements gave songs like “Treat You Better,” “In My Blood,” and “Mercy” an arena rock feel, and he sang with a youthful conviction that made the passionate lyrics feel genuine.

A particularly moving moment was his performance of “Youth,” an earnest social commentary about holding onto hope when tragedies threaten to sap the joy from life. “When I think of the word ‘youth,’ I don’t think of it as something that describes age; I think of it as a term that describes freedom and happiness,” he explained.

Mendes ended on a high note, a surprise cover of King of Leon’s “Use Somebody” that segued into his 2015 hit “Stitches.”

Mendes is a talented performer who knows his way around a pop hook; his Bluesfest set was yet another indication that he’s got a long career ahead of him.

Performer: Shawn Mendes

Venue: Ottawa Bluesfest, Lebreton Flats

Date: July 8/2018

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